Pre-Photography Time-Recording Device
Compared to painting and to sculpture, photography is a newcomer as an art medium. Even before the invention of photography in the early nineteenth century, there already existed a wonderful medium capable of recording the past with great precision. This pre-photography time-recording device was the fossil. If we allow the technology of the fossil to be an art, then fossils can be characterized justifiably as the world's oldest art form. Indeed, fossils have been around for aeons and long predate the human race and its ability to appreciate art.
Fossil are the result of natural cataclysms. They are created when something vibrantly alive is instantaneously extinguished and entombed by an earthquake, landslide, subsea volcanic eruption, or meteor impact. The earth and ash heaped on top of the thing stamp out the impression of its shape like a carved seal; then, over the course of tens of hundreds of millions of years, that shape becomes embedded in sedimentary layers and turns to stone. When you split the strata, the layer on top is the negative image, while the fossilized life form appears as the positive image.
It was when I was photographing an undersea diorama that re-created the Cambrian era of 545 million years ago that the insight first came to me: The trilobite in that diorama had been re-created from a fossil. And by photographing it, I was fossilizing it for a second time.
Taking a photograph, I realize, is to fossilize the present day.
- Hiroshi Sugimoto